Actors John Wayne and Christopher Reeve had something in common when it came to being notable movie stars with a big presence. They both stood well over six feet tall, but they had signature acting styles that allowed them to command the screen in other ways. Wayne once told fellow legendary actor Cary Grant what he really thought about Reeve and his future in Hollywood.
Wayne attended the Academy Awards multiple times, and he even earned two nominations and a win. He was first nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for 1949’s Sands of Iwo Jima. Wayne’s second nomination was for something else entirely: Best Picture for 1960’s The Alamo, which he directed himself. His final nomination was for 1969’s True Grit, which also marked the only time he brought home the Oscar gold.
Reeve and Wayne happened to both attend the 1979 Oscars, although the Superman actor was never nominated at the prestigious award show. This was the same year that The Deer Hunter took home the coveted Best Picture award, and Wayne made his final public appearance that was incredibly heartfelt.
Wayne and Reeve never starred in a feature film together, but their night at the 1979 Academy Awards was meaningful. The Western movie star always kept an eye open for emerging talents and didn’t mince words to state his honest opinion. For example, he thought Gone with the Wind actor Clark Gable was an “idiot.” Fortunately, Wayne had a much higher opinion of Reeve.
According to Ability Magazine, Wayne turned to Grant during the ceremony and said, “This is our new man. He’s taking over.”
Wayne made his comment to Grant about Reeve only one year after his star-turning role in 1978’s Superman. However, the movie star’s prediction wouldn’t exactly go quite as he imagined it would. Reeve became an American icon for playing Superman over the course of four feature films, but decision-makers in Hollywood had difficulty seeing him in another light.
However, Reeve also turned down big roles in favor of playing more complex characters in smaller movies. He still starred in successful movies, such as The Bostonians, Street Smart, and The Remains of the Day.
Wayne and Reeve both became American movie icons thanks to their bodies of work, but also because of how they entered the popular culture machine. They wanted to diversify their work, but Wayne got stuck in making Western and war movies, which is what his fans wanted from him.
Reeve broke his neck in 1995 after he was thrown from a horse, using a wheelchair and ventilator for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he still didn’t give up his love for performing. He directed 1997’s In the Gloaming and starred in the made-for-TV remake of Rear Window in 1998. Additionally, the Superman actor made cameo appearances in Smallville.
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